Here on the summit of Ardpatrick are the remains of an Early Christian monastery. According to tradition, St. Patrick founded a monastery here in the 5th century, however modern scholars doubt if the saint ever came as far south as Munster. The attribution may derive from Ardpatrick coming within the sphere of influence of Armagh where Patrick was the patron saint.
Around the top of the hill on the northern side, outside the graveyard wall are a series of low earthern banks which may be the remains of this monastery - "an almost unique survival of the ancient agricultural endeavours of the monks". The field patterns are clearly visible from the Kilmallock road in the sunlight.
These early monasteries were not laid out according to a standardised plan, but grew organically with simple huts for the monks clustered around a central church. Enclosing this was an earthern bank or stone wall, known as the vallum, which defined the area where the ecclesiastical rather than the secular law held sway. Consequently criminals or outlaws on the run, often sought sanctuary in these monasteries.
The Holy Well lies outside the present graveyard wall, and is possibly the oldest feature of the site. The worship of water was popular amongst the ancient Celts; according to local tradition Ardpatrick was a Druidical centre. With the coming of Patrick many of these pagan sites were converted to Christian use. Water from this well is said to cure lameness, rickets and rheumatism.
The present church ruin is medieval in date but probably stands on the site of a series of earlier churches which were built of wood 'according to the Irish fashion'. The surrounding graveyard is still in use.
Important Irish monasteries were sometimes marked by a tall round stone-built tower. The round tower here is now reduced to a stump; it was struck by lightening during a storm in 1824. The base of the tower was excavated in the 19th century and parts of two bells were found.
Another important association of Ardpatrick is with the ancient roadway known as the Rian Bo Phadraig. The name derives from the legend of St. Patrick's Cow; this supernatural beast made the roadway by dragging its horn across the countryside.
In ancient tale, Ardpatrick is called Tulach na Feinne, the Hill of Fianna, the Fianna being the famous band of mythological warriors whose leader was Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
The site is signposted (it says Early Christian Monastic Site) from outside the Greenwood Inn, Ardpatrick There is a trail leading up the hill (225m high) to the site. Carparking is available in Ardpatrick.
Posted by bawn79
15th July 2008ce